Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ampthill Park

I noticed an appreciable rise in the volume of birdsong over Ampthill Park this morning. Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Dunnocks, Treecreepers and Dunnocks were all singing away.

And love wasn't only 'in the air' as the song was 'in the pond' too! There were hundreds of Common Toads around the fringes of The Rezzy. The males wait for the larger females to arrive and then hitch a lift, holding on for dear life, aided by special pads that develop on the front feet which help them to cling on. I visited The Rezzy at night a few years ago and counted over 1500 Toads!

Males can often outnumber females by up to 10-1 and intricate wrestling matches ensue as they try to outmanoeuvre their rivals. This often leads to so-called 'mating balls' like the one in this photo. There was a lot of croaking going on, and it's reckoned that males which are trying to dislodge the rival that is currently in amplexus with the female can gauge whether he is bigger and stronger by the depth of his croak, and back off if need be!

Each female Toad can lay up to 5,000 eggs, in two strings - one from each oviduct. It's reckoned that the average is 1,500 though...which is still not bad going! You can see some strings of eggs wrapped round the vegetation in this photo.

This fungus was growing on a fallen tree trunk. I think it is the Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). The largest cap is about 10cm across with decurrent gills. It smells traditionally 'mushroomy' and is fawn in colour. The edges of the caps are wavy with a number of splits. Hopefully, that description will help our Fungi Recorder, Alan, to confirm the id or otherwise. (31/4/2010 - I've just picked up the cap from my work surface to find a lilac-like coloured spore print, which seems good!).

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